Help me if you can, I’m feeling illiterate. I can’t reconcile a line from the NFL’s personal conduct policy with one from an audio tape of troubled Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill’s argument with then-fiancee Crystal Espinola regarding the treatment of their son, who mysteriously suffered a broken arm.
The NFL’s policy states that discipline may be imposed “in any of the following circumstances” and then lists bullet points, including: “Violent or threatening behavior among employees, whether in or outside the workplace.”
Now let’s go to one of many disturbing Hill statements on the audio tape spanning 11 minutes, 27 seconds, which is easy to find on the internet. Just because Espinola comes off worse in it than she did in the TV excerpt of the audio tape released several months ago, that doesn’t mean Hill sounds any better. He does not.
On the tape, Espinola says of their son, “He is terrified of you.”
Hill’s response: “Are you (bleeping) terrified? You need to be terrified of me too, dumb (b—).”
If a direct threat isn’t threatening behavior, then what is?
I’m guessing Hill didn’t learn to talk that way to a woman during either the anger-management course or court-ordered 52-week batterer’s intervention program he underwent as part of his sentence (three years probation) after he pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation against Espinola in 2014.
The NFL’s policy doesn’t say discipline “must” be imposed, it says “may.”
So given Hill’s history of domestic violence, why does NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cut him slack?
On the 11:27 tape, Hill denies he did what he pleaded guilty to in 2014, so are we to believe what he said in an argument with Espinola or are we to believe what he pleaded guilty to when under oath and faced with the possibility of committing perjury?
The couple reportedly now is estranged and preparing for a custody battle. Legal authorities could not determine who caused their child’s broken arm, but that alone is not enough to justify a non-suspension for Hill.
Naturally, once NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his shocking no-suspension decision, conspiracy theories abounded. It’s human nature that every commissioner’s decision is born of his hatred for your team, so much so that he will go to great lengths to help a rival.
Ridiculous, of course. It doesn’t work that way, but good luck trying to tell that to Cowboys fans. Running back Ezekiel Elliot never was charged with a crime for alleged domestic violence but served a six-game suspension that resulted in monumental legal bills for the NFL.
It’s difficult to conclude that one of two factors led to the surprising non-suspension for Hill: Either he charmed Goodell during an eight-hour interview and was gaining points for cooperating (Espinal did not cooperate with the NFL investigation) or the commissioner has decided to scale back on suspensions and has lost his stomach for fighting expensive legal challenges.
The latter possibility could result in an even milder than anticipated wrist slap for Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Spagate embarrassment and a quicker path back to the Patriots for receiver Josh Gordon, recidivist offender of the NFL’s drug policy.
As NFL teams report to training camp this week, oddsmakers have the Patriots and Chiefs as the two favorites to win the Super Bowl. They meet Dec. 8 in Week 14, so had Hill been tagged with an eight-game suspension, he would have been eligible to play against the Patriots and would have had a better chance of entering the game healthy since he would not have been exposed to the possibility of injury in as many games. In that sense, the Patriots indirectly benefit.
Goodell can’t worry about such matters when handing down decisions. Part of what he must worry about is spelled out in the personal conduct policy: “Illegal or irresponsible conduct does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL.”
Carve out 11 minutes, 27 seconds to listen to the audio, then put yourself in the commissioner’s shoes and ask yourself how you would have ruled. I did. He goofed.
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